Re: Fw: Raymond Brown

From: Maurice A. O'Sullivan (
Date: Tue Aug 11 1998 - 07:18:58 EDT

At 22:45 10/08/98 -0700, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:

> I overheard Ray being asked if he intended to follow on from
>the trail he had blaised with _Birth of the Messiah_ through the DofM to
>_the Resurrection of the Messiah_. At that point he replied it was his
>intention not to discuss *that* topic until he could do so face to face
>with the Resurrected one himself.

That was just one of a select list of topics which Fr. Brown -- on being
quizzed by his listeners -- used to preface with his special chuckle and
then remark that he hoped some day to put THAT question to the author.

In the Johannine context, this usually centered on such questions as the
153 fish (sometimes met with, once again, that chuckle and the wry remark
"maybe there were just 153 fish, and that's all")
For Paul, he had quite a number of queries, he said !!

Raymond Brown gave the first of his several one-week courses in Ireland in
the early eighties, on the Fourth Gospel. His 2 vol. Anchor Bible
commentary had already been published at this stage, but later courses
preceded publication on the particular topic.

" The Passion Narratives" was part of the evolution of "The Death of the
Messiah", a process which he told us involved presenting his work in
progress and welcoming the discussion and especially the questions which
helped him clarify and order his material to best advantage when arriving
at the publication stage.

Certainly I felt the effect of this process when reading his books, and
friends who had not had the privilege of hearing him tell me that they find
 the clarity of his writing remarkable.

There followed "The Birth and Death of the Saviour", which covered both the
revised edition of his " The Birth" and the " The Death", by this stage in

His last appearance in Ireland was for a weekend course on biblical

The venue for all his visits was All Hallows College, a seminary which
prepares priests for ministry all over the world, many of whom returned for
his summer courses. He always went out of his way to point out that it was
his order, the Sulpicians, who were originally asked to staff the College,
and that it was only an accident that the Vincentians had been running it
for the last 150 years <g>

His first visit -- hugely oversubscribed, of course -- had a predominantly
clerical attendance, and as one of a minority of lay people, I was
privileged to be asked to express the thanks of the audience to Fr. Brown.
In preparation, I took the precaution of finding out what his personal
interests and hobbies were.

He had, I discovered, a lifelong interest in philately.
Now, what I knew about that subject could be written on, well, the back of
a postage stamp! However, I was lucky enough to have a colleague who was an
acknowledged expert and he provided me with a hard-to -come- by catalogue
of an important past exhibition of Irish stamps.
By good fortune, postal history, especially of Irish stamps, was one of
Raymond Brown's main interests in this field.

On his later visits, I was able to add to his store of books on the subject.
This was, I told him, just a token of the enormous regard and deep respect
which the mere mention of his name evoked wherever Scripture was discussed.
It is a measure of the man that he could take this kind of tribute in the
spirit in which it was offered; he accepted it gracefully, and yet there
was not a hint of "the great man" preening himself.

He enjoyed touring the scenic areas of Ireland when he was here, as was
only to be expected. But I also learnt from the Vincentians who were his
guides around the country that his interests went a lot deeper; at a time
of particular tension in Northern Ireland, he had asked to visit there and
so could speak from personal experience.

On one of his visits to Dublin, he needed to change some dollars. He was
accompanied to the local bank by the president of All Hallows, who
subsequently told the story in public, much to the delight of Ray. As they
stood in line at the bank counter, both dressed in accordance with
canonical regulations ( he was meticulous about this ), they were
approached by a man waving a newspaper and a pencil. "The very man, Father"
said the Dubliner to the president. "Can you tell me what is the second
book of the Bible?
"Well, now" was the reply " arem't you are the lucky man?; standing beside
me is one of the world's greatest scriptural scholars. Why don't you ask
"Ah, J---s, Father, I haven't the time -- all I want to do is finish the

Apart from the times when I was able to put a query to him at coffee break
or at the dining table -- he was immensely approachable, but his resentment
of any attempt to monopolize him could become palpable -- I have the sound
of his voice permanently with me.

During the " Passion Narratives" week, a professional recording was made,
with his permission, of the formal lectures, and a set of eleven cassettes
issued a couple of weeks later.
Within a few months, the organizers of the recording were told by his
publishers in no uncertain terms to scrap the set as it was in breach of
their copyright in his work. My set, happily, remains beyond the grasp of
the publishers!

When "The Death of the Messiah" was published, I asked him to autograph my
It is inscribed: " To Maurice O'Sullivan, who is such a faithful disciple.
Raymond E. Brown".

I can think of no greater epitaph for Ray than to say:
"He was always such a faithful disciple of his Master"

May the sod rest lightly on him!

Maurice A. O'Sullivan

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